Stephen Miller, one of President Donald Trump's top advisers, has distanced the administration from the meaning of "The New Colossus," the poem which appears on the Statue of Liberty.
Miller argued at an Aug. 2 press briefing that the statue and the poem, written by Emma Lazarus, were not connected, according to Huff Post.
Miller was presenting the draft of a new Senate bill that would give preferential treatment to immigrants who can speak English. A journalist asked him if this conflicted with U.S. values, citing one of the poem's most famous passages: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Miller responded that it did not.
"I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting in the world; it's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world," Miller said, according to Huff Post. "The poem that you're referring to was added later. It's not actually part of the Statue of Liberty."
The statue was put up in 1886 and the poem added in 1903, but the two have traditionally been closely associated. At the Statue of Liberty Museum, "The New Colossus" appears on a plaque.
When Trump sought to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, opponents cited "The New Colossus" as an argument against the policy.
"It's a recognition that the strength of our country is in our diversity, that the revitalization constantly of America comes from our immigrant population," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the poem at a protest.
Miller has been a leading proponent of some of Trump's most controversial measures, including the construction of a border wall with Mexico and the travel ban, according to The New York Times. The newspaper reported that Miller shares economic nationalist positions and a hardline stance on immigration with Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist. Miller played a leading role in the Trump election campaign as a speechwriter and often took the podium himself prior to Trump's speeches.
"Stephen was the kind of guy who would make a passionate ideological argument to a roomful of people who were there to make pragmatic decisions," Alex Conant, a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, told the Times.
Miller said on Aug. 2 that the Senate bill, which would introduce a merit-based system for awarding green cards, would pass.
"The more that we, as a country, have a national conversation about what kind of immigration system we want and to whom we want to give green cards to, the more unstoppable the momentum for something like this becomes," Miller said, according to the Washington Examiner.